View Full Version : Opening Day Analysis

04-06-2004, 10:45 PM
Greetings everyone! New poster here. I have been "lurking" for several months and finally decided to participate. I've enjoyed everyone's comments as well as the sense of humor evident on this board. Being Sox fans, we occasionally need as much humor as we can get!

I thought I would offer up my analysis of the opener and upcoming season. Having read many of your links, I will try to break as much new ground as I can.

First of all, Ozzie's impact on the club was noticable from the very beginning. Out with "corpseball!" This year there was energy in the dugout and a sense of purpose with every at-bat. When was the last time we've seen so many players and coaches hanging on the dugout rail during the game? Everyone was into this game. I have to admit that, even in the dreaded ninth inning, I took some solace in seeing Ozzie's emotions so readily displayed. What a change from years of watching Jerry sitting on the dugout bench with nary an expression on his face.

I've heard much prognosticating in the media that somehow the meltdown in the bullpen was Ozzie's fault. Some believe he should have left Koch in. Others say he shouldn't have allowed Pollite to pitch into the ninth. Pollite was arguably the best reliever the Sox had immediately out of Spring Training in terms of his outings in Arizona. He had only pitched 1 1/3 innings prior to the ninth and was absolutely dominating the Royal's hitters. They couldn't get around on his fastball as evidenced by numerous balls hit by righthanders into foul territory on the right side. As sometimes happens to pitchers, though, Pollite suddenly lost his location. After it became evident Pollite had lost his release point or whatever the problem was, Ozzie sent Cooper to straighten out his mechanics. Often times the pitching coach can fix the problem, but in this case it just didn't work and Pollitte walked the second batter.

Ozzie was forced to go to the pen and bring in Koch. Koch, to his credit, didn't appear to be throwing low-90's heaters up in the zone like last year but nevertheless gave up a double that I attribute more to a good piece of hitting by Santiago than a bad pitch made by Koch. Koch kept that ball inside and Santigo almost came out of his shoes the way he had to torque his body around to get the good part of the bat on the ball. By the way, that ball wasn't fair by much. Santiago's just an experienced hitter.

Some commentators have claimed that Ozzie "panicked" and pulled Koch out prematurely. If Ozzie had truly "panicked," wouldn't he have pulled Koch out immediately after Santiago's double? Instead, he left Koch in to face Guiel, whom Koch proceeded to strike out on what looked like a wicked cutter or slider. I'm convinced that Koch would have been left in the game had Graffino been the next batter. Instead, Pena decided to pinch hit with Stairs. Stairs is the kind of player a team signs for exactly the situation for which he was called upon yesterday. He is a free-swinging lefty power hitter you bring in when you need to try and "pop one" or keep a rally going. Stairs has always been a limited player with respect to overall ability, but has consistently posted a high OPS. In 305 at-bats for Pittsburg last year, Stairs had a .389 on base percentage and a .561 slugging percentage. He is particularly dangerous against right-handers, but struggles against left-handers.

Ozzie and the other coaches know about Stairs from having information about the Royals players available to them. If he mashes righties but struggles against lefties, wouldn't you want your best lefty, who also happens to be your most talented bullpen arm, to face Stairs in what could be a game-breaking situation? I certainly would! While I certainly don't consider myself a stat-head, it is interesting to note what the 2004 Baseball Prospectus says about Marte:

"Marte has his wild nights, and probably won't post a 1.58 ERA again, but if Ozzie Guillen does anything other than use him in the team's highest-leverage situations, he'll be making a mistake."

Ozzie went with Marte and Pena countered by pulling Stairs. In my mind, that was a win for Ozzie. I know in retrospect it doesn't seem like a "win" because hindsight affords us the knowledge that the next guy mashed a three-run homer. However, I was relieved to see Stairs walk back to the dugout. As bizzare as this sounds, I would rather get beat by a player who probably in all truthfullness got lucky than fall victim to a potential mismatch (Koch-Stairs) that might have tilted the statistical odds a little more towards the Royals than would be comfortable. Marte had a terrific match-up and just didn't execute. Damaso only gave up three homers through all of last season. On Monday he gave up two big ones. He was clearly off his game and I wouldn't expect that kind of performance from him very often. I think theories that he is going through a dead-arm period probably have some validity. He will be one of the best relievers in the American League barring injury.

While the bullpen performed poorly in the ninth-inning on Monday, I am going to defer judgement until we have a larger sample size of games.

My initial take on the ninth inning collapse is simple. Bad luck. We can't really say with any honesty that the "bullpen" completely sucked. Pollite was good enough to close the seventh and get us through the eigth with no problems. What we can say with certainty is that the bullpen sucked during the ninth inning. The ninth inning was, in hindsight, a "perfect storm." A significant lead, three pitchers who underperformed on the exact same night (although Koch did retire one of two batters faced) and a light-hitting bench player who lucked into the biggest hit of his career. I can't even remember the guys name he's so obscure! Oh wait, I think it's Mendy Lopez. His homer kind of reminded me of the Sox-Cubs game back in 1999 when light-hitting Mike Caruso hit what turned out to be a tie-breaking homer that ended up being the game-winner at Wrigley. Caruso wouldn't have duplicated that homer if you gave him 50 more at-bats. I doubt that Mendy Lopez could either. Sometimes a guy just gets lucky at your expense.

We have and will have our lucky nights, too. I remember last year when Minnesota had us one out away from a defeat with Konerko at the plate. This was when Paulie was absolutely terrible. There was no way he was going to get a hit against Guardado. Next thing you know, Paulie connects with a game-tying homer and the Sox go on to win that game. I remember being at a Sox-Cubs game at the Cell (than Comiskey) a couple of years ago when we were down 8-0 after three innings or so with Kerry Wood on the mound. That game was over. As you recall, the Sox came back to win.

Some have expressed a fear that Monday's loss was a harbinger of things to come. I remember the Red Sox-Devil Rays opener last year when the Red Sox were up something like 6-2 in the ninth and gave up 5 runs to the Devil Rays and lost the game 7-6(I can't recall the exact score but remember the bullpen collapse that lead to 5 ninth-inning runs). Sounds familiar, doesn't it? I remember the gang on Baseball Tonight going on and on about "what a disaster that collapse was for the Red Sox" and how the Red Sox might have serious problems that season. Well, the Red Sox did have some bullpen problems but went on to the ALCS!

Some have said that Thursday is such an important game. That it is a game we must win. I certainly hope we do, but if we don't it means absolutely nothing. In 2000, we lost the first two games on the way to winning 95. The Royals started last season with nine consecutive wins, four or five coming against us and we ended up finishing higher in the standing than they did while winning the season series. Remember in 2002 when the Indians began the season with something like 13 consecutive wins? Well, they ultimately had a monumental collapse that resulted in the firing of their manager by midseason. Some have worried about having to play the Yankees seven times in the first couple of weeks. I remember that last year the Twins had to play the Yankees early, lost all seven or so games and went on to win the division.

In the Major Leagues it's about staying power. I'm not sure if the Twins are for real this year or not. In my opinion, the Kansas City Royals simply do not have the starting pitching to go wire to wire. Brian Anderson would be a number 3 or 4 pitcher on our staff. Also, don't be surprised if the injury bug bites Juan Gonzalez sooner or later.

This brings me to the key to the success or failure of our 2004 campaign. The reason the Sox record was so abysmal during the first half of the 2003 season was not because of how we played against the Royals, Twins, A's, Mariners, et. al. We ultimately came up short because we lost so many games to teams like the Tigers, Indians, Devil Rays and last years Orioles. We don't have to dominate everyone during the month of April and stake ourselves out to a big lead in the division and make a "statement" (although that would be great :smile: ). We also don't have to thoroughly dominate the Twins or Royals. Basically splitting our games with the Twins and Royals would be acceptable.

The Sox do, however, need to demonstrate that they can beat the teams they are supposed to beat. This is were Ozzie should help us tremendously. If we perform like we did during the first eight innings of Monday's game, hit-and-run, sacrifice bunts, going to the opposite field, demonstrable energy, we will win our share of games. The Sox will also look much more competitive during losses.

04-06-2004, 10:55 PM
Hey welcome aboard! :redneck

04-07-2004, 05:48 AM
Great analysis, infohawk. The last couple of days I have been ruminating over that terrible loss but your commentary has put it in a better perspective.

04-07-2004, 06:30 AM
I appreciate your input. I've been thinking pretty much the same things you have, however, I hadn't written everything out nor compiled the numbers to back up my arguments. Simply put...the negativism shown after the Sox loss was WAY TOO MUCH. Granted, it was opening day, and you always want to start a new season on the right foot. However, if opening day was the determining factor in who wins and loses, then the folks in Tampa Bay and Detroit ought to start making October ticket purchases.

The Sox are going to be okay this year...meaning they'll rebound from this loss and shake things up in baseball. I'm confident they'll play better than expected, and the Cubs fans who are rubbing Monday's loss in our faces now will be the ones eating the crow come the fall.

04-07-2004, 07:35 AM
The only problem I have with Ozzie's decisions on Monday was not bringing in Koch or Marte to start the 9th. Well a 4-run lead is not a true save, it would have been better to get the season off to a good start and use the "closer". With Tuesday an off day, he would have hardly risked buring anyone out anyway.

Of course none of that guarantees that the outcome is different anyway. Somedays you lose games you should have won. Hopefully it doesn't become a trend and hopefully Ozzie doesn't start panicking and bringing in Koch or Marte with a 10-run lead either.

The Royals have an excellent offensive team (better than the Sox?) they are going to score a bunch of runs this year. Monday, they just had their big inning in the ninth. That's the way the cookie crumbles...

Baby Fisk
04-07-2004, 07:55 AM
Where's Chapter 2? :D:

04-07-2004, 08:30 AM
Very good analysis, It gives me a little more hope and my anger and frustration has dispelled a little bit after having time to recover from listening to that awful ninth. I agree with most of your points, very well thought out and it is nice for another new member to join and not be a new wealth of negativity (I am not, despite my sig, it was a rough Monday). Hope to hear more from you. And lets hope we can take this next game today, or this season really is over. :D:

04-07-2004, 08:37 AM
They made a good point yesterday on the radio that you have also hit on....when's the last time Frank was on the rail the whole game yelling instead of in the clubhouse?

04-07-2004, 09:26 AM
I am also not concerned. From what I remember, the Royals are always great in April. I think in 2000, the Sox were swept during a weekend series in Kansas City in mid-April and all the national analysts were talking about their great, young talent. Two months later, the Sox had about a ten game lead and everyone forgot about the Royals. Kind of the same thing happened last year when the Royals were unbeatable in April- but at the end of the season, they finished third. I am not too worried about them.

04-07-2004, 09:27 AM
I should say not concerned yet. The bullpen could definitely change that soon.

ode to veeck
04-07-2004, 09:56 AM
Samram and Infohawk,

Welcome to WSI!! and oh yes, the sky is not falling today

04-07-2004, 12:16 PM
Great post and welcome aboard.